The pride of East Lansing High, four-star power forward Brandon Johns, will be a Michigan Wolverine. The top-ranked 2018 prospect in the state made the announcement on Twitter this afternoon:
— BrandonJohnsJr (@Brandon_Johns0) June 29, 2017
Johns chose Michigan over the likes of Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue. Both in-state schools have been pursuing him since he was in middle school, making this a significant head-to-head win for John Beilein over Tom Izzo. He's the second commit in the class, joining three-star East English Village point guard David DeJulius.
4*, #21 PF,
4*, 88, #6 SF,
4*, 96, #15 PF,
4*, #18 PF,
Johns's rankings are in a very tight 40-50 range with the exception of Scout, which is more skeptical but still considers him a four-star prospect. Scout, ESPN, and 247 list him at 6'8" and in the 205-215 pound range; Rivals appears to have an outdated listing of 6'7", 180.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Johns has been on the radar for a long time. He jumped out to Sam Webb at Michigan's Elite Camp as a rising freshman in 2014:
This high school freshman-to-be was the best prospect in attendance during the morning session. The future is amazingly bright for this talented youngster. He is 6-6, but handles it like he is 6-2. ... In a match-up with Xavier Tillman, Johns really impressed. One time down the floor he caught it in the post and went over Tillman for two. Another time he hit Tillman with a crossover on the wing before hitting a floater from the elbow. He also drained a number of threes on the day. All that said, there were some hiccups on the day. The stronger Tillman was able to push Johns around at times. Johns also was sometimes too deferential. Both of those shortcomings can be coached out of him. This kid is a skilled point forward at this early stage of development. If he gets to 6-9-plus like his dad he could develop into an unbelievable stretch-four. Also worth of note is this was Johns’ first ever camp experience… a very nice distinction for the Maize & Blue to have.
He landed on a lot of early watch lists as a top 2018 recruit, and for the most part his development has stayed on track. He's put together an excellent spring that should solidify his lofty rankings. Endless Motor on his performance at May's Spiece Run-N-Slam:
Really liked what I saw over the weekend from Brandon. He has an improved motor that is noticeable on the boards and he displayed much more aggression on the offensive end of the court. He had a few highlight reel dunks in transition, including a windmill that was dunk contest worthy. In the halfcourt Johns buried catch and shoot threes, and showed some really nice vision finding teammates for dunks after breaking defenders down off the dribble. Talent has never been in question for the talented junior, but it appears his motor has caught up to his skill level if this weekend was any indication, and that is a scary thought. At a legit 6’8 and 220 pounds, with very good ball skills and good athleticism, Brandon has all the tools to be an elite level player.
Rivals's Eric Bossi noted a similar uptick in Johns's desire to hit the boards at the EYBL Indianapolis session:
Johns was active on both ends of the floor and did a nice job of cleaning the glass. When he rebounds and plays with some physicality, his entire game opens up. He hit a couple of three pointers and was good for 16 points and nine rebounds.
ESPN updated their evaluation on Johns just a couple weeks ago:
Brandon is a skilled combo forward. He could be a 4 at the collegiate level and then possibly a 3 man at the highest level. He reminds you some of Ex-Dukie Shane Battier. Johns is versatile offensively as he can play inside and out. He is an effective post up player that can also shoot to 20 feet. Johns is a good passer and has a very good basketball IQ. He is a smooth operator that can also be a glue guy because he can do so many things offensively. He is also a solid defender that can guard on the perimeter and in the paint.
Brandon, of course, needs to get stronger like most high school players. He is a solid shooter but could be a little more consistent from deep. Defensively he is good versus post players either inside or on the perimeter, he will need to improve guard smaller and quicker players outside on the perimeter.
Johns is a great prospect that will be an asset and key piece for what college he chooses. A nice talent and very good player.
UMHoops, like everyone else this spring, saw a talented player putting it all together at Michigan's Team and Elite Camps last weekend:
Brandon Johns has been almost scouted to death at this point after playing two years of Nike EYBL 17U and being highly touted at a young age. The knocks on Johns were always about his motor and production, but suddenly he’s turning a lot of that early potential into consistent productivity. At 6-foot-8 with long arms, Johns has improved as a rebounder and is more aggressive looking for his offense. He’s capable of stretching the floor and driving to the rim and looks like the total package as a stretch four.
As you've probably gathered, Johns looks like a great fit as a versatile four in Beilein's system.
Johns held offers from Alabama, Cal, Creighton, Indiana, Iowa, Memphis, Michigan State, Mizzou, Pitt, Purdue, and Xavier.
In 13 games for his Indy Heat squad on this spring's EYBL circuit, Johns is averaging 12.6 points, going 61/111 on twos (55%), 17/39 on threes (44%), and 27/40 on free throws (68%) while adding 6.6 rebounds per game with 13 assists, 18 steals, and 19 blocks.
2017 Nike EYBL LA:
2017 Run-N-Slam highlights:
2016 Nike EYBL:
Johns and Tyger Campbell single-game highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Johns looks like an immediate contributor at the four, where he'll share minutes with 2017 incoming freshman Isaiah Livers. Both are skilled for their size, so who gets the larger share of playing time may come down to rebounding and defense—and, of course, familiarity with Beilein's system, which will at least give Livers an initial edge. Johns is the higher-touted prospect, however, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn a big role at an early stage.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has two commits, a point guard and a big wing, for the 2018 class. There are two open scholarships left at the moment, though it wouldn't be surprising for Beilein to take three more players—he learned from past classes to recruit with attrition in mind.
Another big wing, four-star SF Pete Nance, is expected to be the next to commit; he'd down to Michigan and Northwestern and reportedly plans to announce soon after this weekend's official visit to Ann Arbor. If Nance commits, Michigan would have room for maybe one more combo forward—top targets include Jerome Hunter, Ignas Brazdeikis, Race Thompson, and Hunter Tyson—and someone who can slot in at shooting guard like Noah Locke.